For the first time this fall, two race meets will take place concurrently on the National Steeplechase Association calendar, offering horsemen and two dozen riders 12 opportunities to compete across a wide range of conditions from maiden claimers to stakes, over hurdles, timber, and mixed obstacles, and on the flat. At stake: $180,000 in purses.
Post time for both the 92nd running of the Genesee Valley Hunt Races in Geneseo, N.Y., and the 67th Virginia Fall Races in Middleburg is 1 p.m. The meets will be live streamed from the NSA web site at https://www.nationalsteeplechase.com/jump-racing-usa/. Be sure to have plenty of snacks and beverages on hand as the broadcast will switch back and forth between locations; if the races go off at the same time, the NSA’s broadcast partner Alliance will show one on tape delay. The live stream is sponsored by Brown Advisory, the Temple Gwathmey Steeplechase Foundation, Charleston’s Post & Courier, and the Virginia Equine Alliance.
At Genesee Valley, timber racing takes center stage, with three events: a $10,000 maiden, $10,000 allowance for apprentice riders, both at 3 miles, and the featured $25,000 Genesee Valley Stakes at 3 ½ miles. The day concludes with a training race on the flat for apprentice riders. A field of five has been entered in the feature, topped by veteran stakes winners Schoodic, 11, and Mystic Strike, 12.
Dolly Fisher’s Schoodic, trained by Hall of Famer Jack Fisher, has captured his last two starts, including the Virginia Gold Cup in May, a race in which Upland Partners’ Mystic Strike unseated his rider. Schoodic tuned up for Saturday’s stake by unleashing a powerful stretch run to catch Leipers Fork Steeplechasers’ Tomgarrow in a timber allowance at Shawan Downs on Sept. 25. Trainer Todd McKenna had cross-entered Mystic Strike, a winner the Middleburg Hunt Cup at Glenwood Park in May, in Saturday’s National Sporting Library and Museum Cup Stakes also at Glenwood, but will make the trip to upstate New York instead, where he hopes to erase the memory of a DNF in his only other start over the course, in 2019. Also entered in the race are Armata Stable’s lightly raced Goodoldtimes, who makes his stakes debut; Holwood Stable’s Road to Oz, a maiden winner over timber who finished a good third to Mystic Strike in the Middleburg Hunt Cup; and Lucy Goelet’s Rocket Star Red, a maiden winner at Geneseo in 2019, who is coming off a third-place finish in the Maryland Hunt Cup in April, his most recent start.
As with many of the boutique meets on the NSA circuit, Genesee offers a festive day of family fun in a country-fair setting that has hosted hunt racing for more than 120 years. Located about 330 miles north of New York City, the meet includes festivities such as stick-horse races for kids, pony rides, food and drink vendors, wine and craft beer tasting, shopping, music, duck-herding demonstrations, canine events (fans are welcome to bring their leashed dogs to the races, too) and the parade of the Genesee Valley Hunt foxhounds. Event proceeds will benefit the Golisano Children’s Hospital and Geneseo Rotary. Activities begin at 10 a.m.
An eight-race program worth $130,000 is on tap at Virginia Fall, headed by the $30,000 National Sporting Library & Museum Cup timber stakes at 3 ¼ miles, along with a strong undercard featuring the inaugural running of the $25,000 Magalen Ohrstrom Bryant Memorial allowance hurdle, named after the renowned local horsewoman, conservationist, and philanthropist who died at 92 in July.
The day begins with two $20,000 hurdles at 2 ⅛ miles, a handicap for horses rated 115 or less and a maiden. There’s also a $10,000 maiden claiming hurdle at the same distance, and a 3-mile $15,000 maiden timber event.
For many fans, the highlight of the day is the steeplethon, a thrilling $15,000 race at 2 ⅝ miles contested up and down hills over mixed obstacles including hurdles, timber, natural brush fences, and water. Four horses are entered in the race, led by Silverton Hill’s Bodes Well, who captured the Jonathan Kiser novice hurdle stakes at Saratoga this summer.
The finale is a flat training race that’s drawn a field of 10, including six-year-old New York-bred Honor Up, a black-type stakes winner of $433,000 on the flat. Honor Up, a son of To Honor and Serve, ran 26 times, all but one on the NYRA circuit. His biggest claim to fame is a third in the 2019 G1 Carter Handicap, finishing ahead of that year’s champion older dirt male, Vino Rosso. Honor Up now races for Ashwell Stable, LLC.
Six seasoned timber veterans are expected to compete in the National Sporting Library & Museum Cup. Frank Bonsal’s 2018 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup star Stand Down makes his second start of 2021, following a fourth place finish in the Maryland Grand National in April. Northwoods Stable and Sheila Williams’ hard-knocking Storm Team, a stakes winner over hurdles, has finished first, second, or third in all four of his timber allowance starts this season. The aforementioned Tomgarrow, with three straight runner-up finishes including a second in the Virginia Gold Cup, looked to be home free at Shawan Downs two weeks ago, only to be run down by Schoodic. Boudinot Farms’ Irish-import Elusive Exclusive made his U.S. debut a winning one at Shawan, breaking his maiden by three lengths. Fat Chance Farm’s lightly raced seven-year old Flaming Sword has captured two of his four career starts, and was a distant third to Schoodic and Tomgarrow in the Virginia Gold Cup. Kiplin Hall’s Renegade River is looking to regain the form that saw him take two in a row this spring, a maiden at My Lady’s Manor River followed by a neck upset of Schoodic in the Willowdale Steeplechase Stakes.
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